Wasim han weitim wata an sop bifo kaikai an afta toilet! Thats the message that being promoted by schools in Honiara and Guadalcanal, after a workshop with Ministry of Health (MHMS) last week.
On Thursday, 25 February, Headteachers and Deputy Headteachers from ten selected schools in Honiara and Guadalcanal, spent a morning working with the MHMS Environmental Health and Health Promotion Divisions to develop a school calendar to promote handwashing with water and soap at critical times.
The workshop included teachers as far away as St Francis Vaturanga in the West, and Numbu in the East, demonstrating recognition of the importance of handwashing.
The idea of a competition was popular among participants, to see which school will make the greatest improvements in student and teacher attitudes and access to handwashing with water and soap. However, as mentioned by Sanitation Manager, Mr Marcel Gapu, parents and community leaders can also get involved in the action and promote handwashing at home.
“Always reminding children to wash hands, and being a good role-model in washing hands with soap and water at critical times is a great start”, said Mr Gapu.
“People can also make a place to wash hands outside toilets and kitchens for free, using old water bottles or bamboo. If soap is not available, alternatives such as fire ash, sand or akwa leaf can also be used. It costs nothing but can save lives”.
Director of Environmental Health Tom Nanau, said “Our research shows that less than 1 out of every 10 Solomon Islanders washes their hands with water and soap at critical times. The most critical times to stop the spread of faeces are after going to the toilet and before eating.”
He added that the current Rotavirus outbreak across the country, which has already resulted in 25 deaths, is a sad reminder of how lives can be saved through the simple act of handwashing.
The workshop forms part of the MHMS and UNICEF Handwashing Strategic Health Communication Plan, which was launched on Global Handwashing Day last year (15 October) at Visale Primary School.
Over the next two years, selected schools will implement a range of activities to promote handwashing, including community theatre, competitions, and school events. The campaign plans to reach all provinces after 2017.
Implementation of the MHMS and UNICEF Handwashing campaign is kindly supported by the Australian Government and the European Union.